Kvatakhevi Monastery can be reached just over an hour’s drive from Tbilisi. The isolated location is stunning, like a scene from a fairy tale. A narrow bridge stretches across a gorge like a moat, leading to the ancient white stone church framed by modern monastic housing built in the traditional style of river stone and red roof tiles. In the winter, the grounds are generally blanketed in snow, smoke curls out of the chimneys, and thick fog conceals the surrounding mountains, making the monastery complex feel like it’s floating.

“Kva” means stone in Georgian, and the stone hewn complex makes it clear why it’s called Kvatakhevi. The church was built in the medieval era, most likely the 12th – 13th centuries. The architecture is a classic Georgian domed church, reflecting the monasteries of Betania, Pitareti, and Timotesubani. The church is covered in intricate decorations, especially around the windows and the base of the dome; the eastern façade is adorned with a large ornate cross. The monastery was significantly damaged during Timur's invasions of Georgia in the 14th century. The monks tell a story that during Timur’s invasion, all the local people gathered in the church to hide, and when Timur heard he commanded his soldiers to burn the church with the people inside. There are black marks on the stone floor that the monks say are residue from the victims burned alive. The church repaired after the attack, and more completely under the patronage of Prince Ivane Tarkhan-Mouravi in 1854. A belfry was added in 1872.

When venturing out, be careful - the last stretch of road gets very muddy after a rain! Hiring a driver or renting a car with 4-wheel drive would be a good idea. On the way to Kvatakhevi, there are a few other church ruins that are worth pulling over and peaking in.

Address: Shida Kartli, near the village of Tsipori (55 km west of Tbilisi)

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